Challenging the Archive. An Archaeological Guide to the Deployment of an Archive
13th of December
18.00 NODE Space, Hämeentie 135 C, 5th floor

This lecture will discuss the working methodology of the curatorial think tank Archaeology of the Final Decade through an examination of two open-ended case studies. By engaging with accounts of culture lost through material destruction, acts of censorship, and other political, economic or human contingencies, this practice situates itself in opposition to totalitarian conditions that dictate ideological and concretistic historical monologues. It works to enact a processual retracing (historical) and reintegration (now) into cultural memory and discourse, as a performative counteraction of violent, systematic historical erasures.

The tripartite reclaiming, reconstructing and ultimately reconciling is set in motion through a performative retroactive agitation. Here the archive is re-situated beyond the hierarchies and strictures of the state/institutional apparatus. It is understood instead as a discourse that intervenes in and disrupts hegemonic historical narratives.

Confronting the decade long controversial Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis and the seminal photographic series Prostitute of Kaveh Golestan as contrapuntal historical objects, Archaeology of the Final Decade has collected and salvaged documents and cultural materials relating to both articulations. The former was a festival of performance held annually in Iran between 1967-77, in and around the city of Shiraz and the ancient ruins of Persepolis, until a fatwa declared it culturally decadent and un-Islamic. The latter is centred on the last extant photographic record of the residents of the red light district of Tehran – the Citadel of Shahr-e No – before it was torched down with an undisclosed number of residents trapped inside in an epic act of cultural cleansing. The neighbourhood was subsequently bulldozed and converted into a park. The project Recreating the Citadel investigates the nature and function of such cultural deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation as a tool of political and cultural reordering of society in post-1979 revolutionary Iran.

Vali Mahlouji
Vali Mahlouji is a London-based curator and independent advisor to the British Museum and the Kaveh Golestan Estate. He is founder of the curatorial think tank Archaeology of the Final Decade, which identifies, investigates and re-circulates significant cultural and artistic materials that have remained obscure, under-exposed, endangered, removed or in some instances destroyed. AOTFD has recently curated at FOAM Museum of Photography, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Whitechapel Gallery, Photo London, Art Dubai Modern, Prince Claus Fonds, Singapore International Festival of Arts and Bergen Assembly.